One Year Later and the dream is as strong as ever
November 3rd 2008: the final day of campaigning for what is the most historic US election of the modern era. The the-then Senator Barack Obama (D: IL) had a clear lead against his Republican challenger, Senator John McCain (R: AZ,) and the world held its breath as November 4th dawned.
Running his campaign on the promise of change and hope, the Obama/Biden team inspired a new generation of American voters, alongside establishing an invigorated political grassroots movement. It was in part due to this approach that Barack Obama was declared the 44th President of the United States on November 4th 2008.
The Presidential Inauguration on the 20th January 2009 was the most watched and most attended in history. The dream of Martin Luther King had become reality. Change had come to America.
Then the hard work began. President Obama’s first alteration was an executive order and presidential memoranda ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay, as well as the development of plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. He also changed procedures to promote disclosure and transparency under the Freedom of Information Act, and reduced the secrecy given to presidential records. The President also reversed George W. Bush’s ban on federal funding to foreign establishments that allow abortions (referred to as ‘The Global Gag Rule.’)
On January 29 2009, President Obama signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which overruled the Supreme Court’s decision and eased the requirements for filing employment discrimination lawsuits. Five days later he signed the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover an additional 4 million uninsured children. The President also repealed a Bush-era policy that prevented federal tax dollars from being used to fund research on the use of embryonic stem cells to cure some of the most destructive diseases.
On May 26 2009, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Hispanic woman to be a Supreme Court Justice. She was confirmed on August 6 2009 by a vote of 68-31. This is seen as a landmark achievement for minority groups, and once again highlighted that change had come to Washington.
In foreign policy, both the President, Vice-President and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made separate trips to both Russia and Europe to announce a ‘new era’ in US foreign relations. President Obama promised to establish a new era of nucleur dearmament, and called for other nations to follow his lead. In the Middle East, Obama delivered a significant speech at Cairo University, Egypt on June 4th, calling for a new beginning in relations between the Islamic world and the US.
There is no doubt that President Obama has many serious issues to contend with. With the current debate over health care reform continuing to dominate the domestic agenda, Democrats in the US Congress have promised to get a bill on the President’s desk by Thanksgiving. Last week the majority Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives launched their bill, which will now be debated in the chamber. This signifies real change in the direction of health care legislation, and provides the opportunity for more Americans to have access to coverage which is affordable, fair and value for money.
The war in Afghanistan is another equally contentious issue. It is likely that more US troops will be sent to the region once an assessment has been made by the White House. This decision, like health care reform will divide supporters and critics alike.
There is no doubt that the election of Barack Obama has brought change to Washington, and the nation. Eight years of Republican rule turned the United States into a country distrusted, despised even by other nations around the world. The Obama Administration and its new era of transparency has given birth to a new chapter in the country’s history: one of democracy, hope, and inspiration which has brought new faith and trust within the United States and around the world.
For more information about the President’s Agenda, visit these links:
Signed Legislation: http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/signed-legislation